Monday, September 17, 2012

T #01 - 2 Champs, 3rd as Team

1, 2, 3.

In our 1st tourney of the season, we had 2 champions and finished 3rd as a team!

It was really an excellent day for the varsity. Right from the beginning, it seemed that we were ready to play good tennis. A nervous time for me, our draw turned out really well for every team except #1 doubles. I always kind of dread playing the best teams in the first round, I'd rather see us get warmed up a little bit. Only #1 doubles drew one of the best in the first round, and everyone else drew opponents I thought we could do well against.

I didn't expect the scores and performances that we got however.

Nathan drew Highland, Ike drew Lowell, and Abe drew Wawasee, all teams that had losing records but we didn't know much about. As the singles and doubles were at different sites, and the singles started first, I decided to watch the beginning of these matches. I quickly realized that they were going to be okay in the first round. In the 10 minutes that I watched, Nathan was up 5-0, Ike 3-0 and Abe 3-0 as well. Feeling at ease with these matches, I headed over to the doubles.

I got there in time to see Joel and Hans open up with a great match. Playing Merrillville, they took the first set 6-0 and got up 1-0 in the second. #1 doubles, meanwhile, was struggling against the same Triton team they had faced earlier in the season. Serving relatively well, they were only down 3-2. But then some mistakes and some big plays from the Trojans closed the set at 6-2. 

As the first round matches continued, I was encouraged. Generally in a 3-match tournament like this, you're going to play well at times and you are not going to play well at times. We started out at most positions playing relatively well, winning relatively easily, but nobody had maxed out their potential in the first round. Ideally, you want to build as the day goes on, and that looked like a possibility for us on this day. 

Still, we had few close matches in the first round. So the 2nd round held more intrigue, especially at #1 singles, #2 singles and #2 doubles. From my pre-tournament scouting (which was pretty intensive) I had each of those positions playing the best at their positions in the 2nd round. Nathan would face off with Centerville's Eric Josephson, a talented baseliner that he had beaten in two very close sets in 2011. Ike would face Centerville's Jason Thompson, an all-court counterpuncher whose game reminds me of Fairfield's Austin Christner or Angola's Cameron Hall, both players Ike has struggled with. At #2 doubles, we faced a 13-1 Portage team who did something rarely seen at #2 doubles - they attacked the net.

Watching singles first, Nathan got off to a brilliant start. After splitting the first 2 games, Nate reeled off 5 straight games to win the first set 6-1! He was playing the smartest tennis that I've seen him play all year, working his groundstrokes to perfection and staying very patient. Josephson had very few losses on the season, only losing to state-ranked teams for the most part.  But Nate was just better.

Not so much for Ike. His opponent had all the right answers. Ike played a very consistent style and Thompson attacked. Ike attacked and Thompson passed him. Like a great counterpuncher, he had every answer. Ike really couldn't get close, which was too bad.

What was really too bad was that unexpectedly, Abe was having his struggle of the afternoon in this second round as well. Playing Triton's #3 Jared Fisher, who he had beaten 6-2, 6-0 during the regular season, he trailed 5-4 in the first set. Abe had been struggling in his recent matches because he was playing "#3 singles style" instead of "Abe style." After receiving my pep talk, he won 2 games in a row and looked like he was going to roll up the set. But of course it wouldn't be that simple, and a tiebreak ensued. But Abe got it rolling in the tiebreak. Two big forehands gave him the set. 

So I headed back to the doubles, only to find that #1 doubles was 2 points from winning their 2nd round match already. They had played Lowell, and apparently had played quite well. #2 doubles, as predicted, was in a dogfight of a match. Up 3-0 in the first set, they had surrendered 6 straight games to Portage. That's the problem with coaches running back and forth, you've got no one to help stem the runs. They were holding a 3-2 lead in the second when I arrived, and it looked like they were playing the better tennis. They continued to trade games until 5-4. But Portage had an answer. Like the veteran doubles team they were, they played aggressively at the end of the second set. That enabled the Portage duo to take the last three games. 

I got word that Abe was in a 3rd set, so I zoomed back over to the singles to find them all sitting under our tent eating lunch. So I joined. Abe had won the second set, so he and Nate would both be playing in the finals of their flights. Ike and #2 doubles would be playing for 3rd while #1 doubles would be playing for 4th.

 I got word that the doubles had begun again, so back over to watch Joel and Hans. They were playing against Darren Harrell and Jake Oldham, the Triton team that they had beaten 6-4, 7-6 in our September 1st match-up. Today, they were much more aggressive and assertive, playing with more authority and pop. By the time I left to head back to the singles, it looked like they had 3rd place wrapped up.

At the singles, things had started out well for both Abe and Nate. They both had 3-0 leads when I got back. Ike was in a super close match, that would continue the rest of the afternoon that way. Abe was smashing deep balls, very different from his dinking 2nd match. He was also really using his serve well.

And Nathan, well... Nathan was the talk of the tournament. He was simply dominating all day long and his final against Merrillville's Nygel Jackson was no different. I can't tell you or really describe how incredible he played. He looked as dominant as Leonard Matthews had looked last year. He took the first set 6-0, making that the 13th "6-0" set he's had this season (in 15 matches). He was unbelievable and by the end of the day, he was a champion!

But #1 doubles was struggling, so back over there I went. Down 1-5 in the first set, the advice was simple: "Play solid doubles." And so they did. And as they attacked the net, hit solid balls and kept their serves in, they won 6 straight games to take the set. So with that done, I went back to the singles site.

There I found Abe in a 3rd set tiebreak and Ike as well. Doing some quick calculating in my head, I realized that if these 2 and #1 doubles could win, we could finish in a tie for first place. So, Ike's match was close and drew my attention and before I knew it, Abe was finishing and shaking hands. We couldn't tell if he won or not, because he just sat down on the court. Asking his opponent, we found out that Abe too was a champion on the day. His beautiful deep, attacking, powerful game had won the #3 singles bracket - usually reserved for the "dinkers."

So now we needed Ike and #1 doubles to have a chance. Ike had fallen down 8-4 in his 10 point tiebreak. But 4 straight aggressive points tied it up. Then he hit a ball out to give his Highland opponent a match point. But he denied the match point with an overhead. Then Highland got another chance at 10-9 to end it. But Ike fought back for the tie. At 10-10, Ike came to the net and had an overhead to putaway in order to give himself a match point. But the overhead clipped the tape. On the next point, Highland's Jeff Michner hit a great corner ball, and Ike fell 12-10 in the super tiebreak.

He had played so hard and really seemed to deserve the win. It was hard to see him lose in that match. We also knew that we couldn't challenge for 1st, which was kind of a bummer. Back over then to #1 doubles, where we now found them down 2-5 again. They won 2 games in a row, but soon found themselves in a third set super tiebreak as well.

This tiebreak went back and forth the whole way. Finally, at 9-8, the Bruins had a match point. Unfortunately, a double fault prevented them from getting their chance. Again, back and forth they went until 12-11, where again we had the serve, but this time to deny Highland the match. But it was another double fault, and we fell to 6th place.

For as great of a day as it was, those were 2 hard matches to end the day on. As it turned out, Centerville won a consolation bracket match at #3 singles that would have denied us the tie for the win anyways.

But honestly, I was so proud of the team. They all did a great job. And the best feeling is that I think we're rounding our team into its best play as the season goes on. We've still got room to grow this year, so hopefully, we'll peak just in time for the Sectional this year.

And for now, we'll take the wonderful 3rd place that eluded us last year. Last year we had our first flight champion in Blake Shetler, and this year we got 2. Maybe next year we'll get 3 and win our first tournament championship!

#1S - Nathan Brendle - 1st place - 3-0
def. Aaron McFarland, Highland - 6-0, 6-1
def. Eric Josephson, Centerville - 6-1, 6-2
def. Nygel Jackson, Merrillville - 6-0, 6-3

#2S - Ike Lehman - 5th place - 1-2
def. Delmer Fleming, Lowell - 6-0, 6-2
lost to Jacob Thompson, Centerville - 1-6, 1-6
lost to Jeff Michner, Highland - 7-6 (6), 2-6, (10-12)

#3S - Abe Throne - 1st place - 3-0
def. Doug Hepner, Wawasee - 6-0, 6-0
def. Jared Fisher, Triton - 7-6 (5), 6-3
def. Zach Smith, Portage - 6-3, 4-6, (10-7)

#1D - Himal King/Parth Patel - 6th place - 1-2
lost to Jeff Ross/Pete Kauffman, Triton - 2-6, 1-6
def. Jayson Savich/Jared Hopkins, Lowell - 6-1, 6-1
lost to Tyler Porter/Ben Wood, Highland - 7-5, 4-6, (11-13)

#2D - Joel Gerig/Hans Miller - 3rd place - 2-1
def. Micah Burgstahler/Jacob Swierc - 6-0, 6-1
lost to Chris Klink/CJ Haupt, Portage - 3-6, 5-7
def. Darren Harrell/Jake Oldham, Triton - 6-3, 6-1

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